When the sun set in the East
The food at a Kalina eatery is pocket-friendly, but a lunch with an East Indian home chef confirms that it can't be termed 'authentic'
For those who are aware of the cuisine and the community's culinary traditions, it is hard to imagine East Indian food without visualising spongy fugias or a resplendent bowl of chicken moile. Even though our experience with the food has been fleeting, we have come to like it enough to crave the dishes.
So, when we heard that a nondescript East Indian joint in Kalina — that had shuttered a while ago — had re-opened in March, we couldn't hold our horses; but we had to. For, each time we tried to order in, it was either closed or had run out of food. After multiple attempts, we finally manage to work things out. And on a balmy Sunday afternoon we invite East Indian home chef Alefiya Jane to sample the food with us in a bid to gauge authenticity, and to see if it was worth the wait.
We call on the number and are let down once again when we learn that the only two East Indian dishes available are mutton sorpotel (R120) and fugias (R30 for 10). The lady on the other end is warm enough to share a host of other options, but it isn't reassuring to know that a place that literally calls itself East Indian Fast Food has Chinese fare more readily available. We leave the puzzlement aside and call for a fish fry (R100 for 5 pieces), cheese balls (R10 per piece) and chicken spring rolls (R60 for two pieces) anyway. And after an unjustifiably long wait of one and a half hours, the food finally arrives.
By now, our tummies are growling and we can't wait to dig to in, but one bite of the sorpotel and our appetite is gone. "The dish is too dry and lacks flavour," Jane remarks. Our fellow diners nod in quiet agreement. We pick a piece of the fugias, a dish we absolutely love, but the overtly oily balls are already putting us off. Jane concurs and explains, "Fugias come from the word fugga, or balloon. You squeeze the dough into the fist of your palm, create an air pocket and dip the hollow ball-like formation on top in oil. So, if it isn't spongy, it's not a fugia. And these are very chewy."
We move on to the cheese balls, an unpalatable serving of a doughy snack made with gram flour that tastes more like pakoda. The spring rolls, too, have an unpleasant sourness that's most certainly coming from the stale carrots and capsicum. The fish fry has a nice green marinade, but is uncooked in parts and is perhaps only enjoyable,because everything else isn't.
It takes a lot for us to say that we will not be ordering from this place again, because we had nurtured a keen curiosity for what could have been the perfect spot for some regional food indulgence, and that too, in the comfort of our home. But unfortunately, the sun has set on this East Indian kitchen, and if we are to again chance upon something more promising, be sure to read about it in these pages.
At East Indian Fast Food, Kalina Santacruz East.
Time 9 am to 11.30 pm (please call and check)
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